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Advent: Week Five (Christmas):  All are Welcome

By Rev Anneli Sinkko

When I was a little child (growing up in Finland) Christmas was always a time of cold and darkness. I remember looking through the double-glazed windows into the night – all I could see was snowflakes that covered the land like a shroud. And between the windows, my mother had put white cotton wool and on top of it she placed red hawthorn berries that looked like drops of blood.

But then I heard the Christmas song: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned (Isa 9:2). And I thought: This song speaks about us Finns – We live in such a dark and cold country but when Christmas comes with all its lights – we no longer walk in darkness but have seen the great light – Jesus is born.

Little did I then understand that the darkness in the Book of Isaiah did not mean physical darkness but the darkness of the spirit. And I learned that the light was not the physical light of my childhood Christmases, but it was Jesus, the light of the world. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome or understood it (John 1:5).

When my youngest son was quite small, he often asked us to leave the light on in his room when it was sleep time. And we both as parents felt it was unnecessary – until one night: – Our son was calling again to turn the lights on – to no avail. After a short period of silence, he called, in a loud voice: Bring Jesus in! We could not but turn the lights on! Jesus truly is the light of the world.

Now I am 85 and my youngest son looks after me. And Jesus is still with us. But I can never forget the red hawthorn berries on our windowsill. They remind me of Jesus’ suffering and death – we all know the story. But John adds something remarkable to Jesus’ Passion: Gardens.

John does not tell what grew in the gardens of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection; all we know is that it all happened in the garden – perhaps a reflection of the Garden of Eden. While the Garden of Eden was closed to humanity – anybody can walk with me into the Gardens of Jesus’ suffering and victory.

Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Kidron (John 18:1); where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden and in this garden a new tomb (John 19:41); and in this garden, Mary of Magdala saw the risen Jesus and thought he was the gardener (John 20: 14, 15) and this led to the wonderful event when Jesus calls Mary by name and she recognizes that it is her risen Lord who called her by name (John 20:16). Some three hundred years later, Cyril of Jerusalem (350 C.E.) reported, “The remains of a garden that had previously existed were still visible”.[1]

So follow Jesus on this journey: from one Garden to another. Seek Him and you will find Him. He will call you by name – and you know who Jesus is. Everybody is Welcome.

[1] Brown, The Death of the Messiah, II, 1269-1270.

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